Summary: God walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death. God gives us strength to endure and protects of from misbelief, unbelief and dispair.
The saying, “Opportunity only knocks once,” has been around for a long time. A recent caveat to this saying has been added, “but temptation bangs at the door constantly.” This seems to be all too true in our lives. Jesus’ encounter with Satan certainly demonstrates this. Satan would not take “No” for an answer.
Given the reality that temptation and evil are always a part of our lives, we come to this petition in the Lord’s Prayer where we pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” We pray these words frequently, but perhaps in a slightly thoughtless manner. Few of us have paused to consider what it is exactly that we are asking. Are we asking that God surround us with an impenetrable spiritual shield? Or, are we asking that God keep us safe from the major sins, while allowing us to fall prey to a few harmless temptations?
Seeking to grow in our Christian walk and experience the reality of the abundant life, it may be helpful and instructive for us to pause and examine the Who, What and How of our prayer.
A LIFE OF HARD WORK
The first, obvious observation that we can make is that God does not answer this prayer by keeping us completely separated from temptation and evil. Jesus encountered Satan and fought with him over a forty-day period, in the text that was read earlier. If Jesus had a face off with Satan, and fought temptation, then we can assume that we, as disciples of Jesus Christ, will also.
When writing a brief explanation to this prayer, Martin Luther focuses his thoughts on the effects of temptation. He writes, “ We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us, so that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us nor seduce us into misbelief, despair, and other great shame and vice.”
Temptation and evil are parts of life. We pray in this petition that God will guard us from its disastrous effects and help us stand against it. Unfortunately many of us follow the example of the majority of people and follow the path of least resistance. We yield. In the lake of life, we are Brown Trout rather than Coho Salmon. Several years ago a parishioner took me fishing on the Bay of Green Bay. We trolled for two types of fish: trout and salmon. It did not take me long to realize that I did not need to wait to get the fish in the boat before I knew what I had hooked. The fish were as different as night and day in how they acted once they were hooked. The Brown Trout gave up and allowed you to reel them in to their fate. The Coho Salmon fought with every once of strength. When we pray, “Lead us not into temptation,” we are asking God to enable us to follow the example of the salmon—and Jesus.
Jesus fought with Satan. Though hungry and exhausted, he resisted when Satan tried to lure him away from God the Father and from his mission as Savior. Jesus fought with Scripture, and with his firm belief that nothing—absolutely nothing—was more important than his relationship with God.
We, like Jesus, have several weapons at our disposal that enable us to stand against the forces of evil and resist temptation.
¨ The most common tools are prayer and reading the Bible.
¨ Worship and fellowship are also effective in our resistance.
¨ Being accountable to an individual or group completes our defenses.
A LIFE WITH DANGEROUS ADVERSARIES
Several years ago the comedian Flip Wilson coined the phrase, “The devil made me do it.” He was partially correct. In reality, the adversaries that tempt us on a daily basis are the devil, the world, and our flesh. The goal of their temptations is to draw us away from our relationship with God, compromise our devotion to the Lord, and destroy our relationships with the people around us.
Contrary to popular opinion the purposes of the law and the life of the Spirit are not to take away our fun and force life to be boring. When asked what the greatest commandments were, Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
¨ Our flesh tempts us to be self-centered, selfish, and focus on gratification. Life becomes “about us,” and not “about God.”
¨ The world draws us away from God with promises of security and comfort. We don’t need to rely on God for our well being; we have our medical plans and our 401k’s. Luther once wrote that anything in which we place our hope and trust becomes our God. We replace the God of all creation with the god’s of fame, fortune, comfort, and security.